Event Summary: (Read Arabic Version - اقراء النسخة العربية)
AUB-Ibsar has entered into its 3rd season of planting under the ‘Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow’ campaign. The Power of Planting program has been developing new protocols, methodologies, techniques and information on sustainable tree planting in arid regions from the last 3 years of experience. The aim is to publish documents for disseminating to the general public, namely the rural populations who will directly benefit from planting native species of trees in shrubs in their public spaces.
With the invaluable help from AUB’s Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS), who have been instrumental over the last 3 seasons through mobilizing AUB students to participate in tree planting and other nature-related events, over 30 volunteers signed up for Saturday’s planting event in Fneydek, Akkar. Unfortunately, we were only able to take the first 22 volunteers, but the fact that so many more students are interested in planting trees is quite promising.
The municipality of Fneydek was first contacted in 2008 and received seedlings in our first season of planting. This economically marginalized village is within one of the most ecologically significant regions of Lebanon and sits at the bottom of the protected area of Qammouaa Reserve. There are both endemic and threatened species found in this region known for its delicious apples (Fenydek is the largest producer of apples in Lebanon). Ironically, the growing village is also one of the poorest with little attention paid towards the infrastructure, job creation and social services. The local community; however, are some of the most hospitable and welcoming to foreigners (whether Lebanese or not, you are a foreigner if you’re not from this village).
Our group was scheduled to plant in 2 planting sites, yet given the duration of the trip (just over 3 hours driving to get there from Beirut) and the fact that the preparations of the first site (a newly built mosque) were not finished, we ended up planting in the neglected public garden. The roads were so narrow that the bus was not able to make it down the steep partially paved road to the garden, so the volunteers grabbed their belongings and tools and headed down to the site on foot.
The public garden was so neglected and had not been used for so long that the municipality had no idea where the key to the lock was. With the help of an opening in the fence, the volunteers helped one another climb over one by one. The municipal officer supervising us asked to simply break the lock, which we were able to do with about half a dozen blows of a pickaxe. Once we all made our way into the garden and the tools were delivered, I asked the group to gather around to give a brief demonstration on safety and proper preparation of the holes for planting seedlings. We were immediately the curiosity of the local shebeb, who we gladly invited to join us in the planting. Though it took a bit of warming up, our group of 22 volunteers soon grew to over 40, something of a real delight for us since we are promoting civic engagement of local citizens into the planting and care of native trees.
After giving a 5 minute demonstration, the volunteers were asked to pair up and beginning digging holes. Khaled and I went around inspecting the holes with a 4 liter bucket to make sure they were large enough. Given the compact and rocky condition of the terrain throughout most of Lebanon, it is essential to make large holes and return the loose soil free of big stones and rocks in order to allow for greater root development. This, along with the planting and stone mulching techniques we have been conducting, were all explained in both English and Arabic for all the participants to grasp. And within just 3 hours, over 40 seedlings were planted, mulched with stone, and watered from a nearby aqueduct. There were friendly exchanges of experience and boisterous photos taken before we left the site. It was a remarkably wonderful planting experience for everyone, including myself.
The species planted in the public garden were Redbuds (Cercis siliquastrum), wild almond (Prunus dulcis), and three-lobed crabapple (Malus trilobata); the latter being one in decline and found only in isolated populations (namely in Ehden Reserve). In the long run, we hope to see more use of the public garden by local schoolchildren and families.